Americans are willing to separate food scraps from the rest of their household waste, but don’t want to pay extra for their local solid waste agency to administer a program for that particular waste stream.

That’s one conclusion of a National Waste & Recycling Association survey conducted late last year to gauge attitudes toward food waste. In 2011, the most recent year for which U.S. EPA figures are available, food comprised 15% of the 250 million tons of municipal solid waste generated nationwide. Less than 2% was diverted from landfills via composting.

As they have with household hazardous waste, Public Works readers are slowly but surely making headway in increasing that percentage. However, according to these other survey results, food-diversion programs will remain a tough slog for some time to come:

  • 72% of American’s don’t compost food waste
  • 67% of non-composters would if it were more convenient to do so in their community
  • 68% of non-composters would be willing to manage another bin to separate food waste from recyclables and other trash if their community implemented a program requiring them to do so
  • 77%understand the importance of implementing a separate management process for food/yard organic material
  • 62% wouldn’t support an increase in the cost of their waste and recycling service, either in the form of a separate fee or an increase in taxes, if necessary to support separate collection and processing.

“If you’re passionate about expanding composting opportunities, you need to do more than lobby your local government officials or your community waste and recycling services provider to build such a program,” says the association's president, Sharon H. Kneiss. “You need to support efforts to educate your neighbors about the value of composting food waste.”

The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive from Dec.19 to 23, 2013, among 2,051 adults ages 18 and older.

The National Waste & Recycling Association is the trade association that represents the private-sector waste and recycling services industry.